Ryan Leslie is a man of the people. He’s also a man of many talents. Grammy-nominated record producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur and child prodigy are just a few of the titles that the Washington, DC-native currently holds, which reflect both his diversity and creativity. Over the past several years he’s also quietly added tech titan to his ever-expanding list of accomplishments and skills.
Attending Harvard University at the age of 14 after earning a perfect score on his SATs, Leslie has always been ahead of the curve. So while the music industry has been slow to adapt to the numerous advances in technology, he’s been successfully merging the two worlds to his advantage for years.
Way back in 2006 he saw the potential of social media and played an integral role in leveraging singer Cassie’s massive MySpace following to result in over 650,000 sales of her self-titled debut LP, which was spearheaded by the Leslie-produced single “Me & U.” At the time, no other artist had been able to directly translate online fans into loyal consumers on a one-to-one ratio.
Today, Leslie has completely sidestepped the traditional business models of his industry and uses technology to forge a unique relationship with his fan base, which he’s affectionately dubbed the Renegade Club. By giving his core audience the opportunity to share their personal information with him, Leslie is able to build an on-going database of supporters that he interacts with across multiple social media platforms and even direct email.
Through his latest venture, Disruptive Multimedia, the entrepreneur has continued to position himself as an ultimate influencer of technology. The company has quickly become a facilitator for artists who are looking to engage with their fans without any middlemen or red tape. To date Talib Kweli, Raphael Saadiq and Maino are a few early adopters who have used Leslie’s model to release new music and set up shows.
Taking his passion for all things tech even further, the 35-year-old recently taught himself how to code and is currently developing new apps for the world’s benefit. Given all his trendsetting moves in the digital space, Ryan Leslie makes an ideal addition to the Gentlemen’s Project sponsored by Hennessy Black, which highlights the accomplishments of influential men whose impact helps shape popular culture in innovative ways. HipHopWired caught up with the über-talented Leslie who shares how his entrepreneurial trek through tech began.
Photo: Andrea D’Acquino/Brian Gregory